Being a leader means you may sometimes feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, being conflicted on making decisions based on you like the person, or you as the leader.

You may also consider the numerous and compounding implications your decisions and actions have in your leadership role in the company.

Several factors must be considered when making these day-to-day decisions for your team, and although its impact varies, authentic leadership makes the difference.  

However, does being an authentic leader automatically translate to having authentic leadership? And what does being an authentic leader really mean?

Previous studies suggest that being a truly genuine and authentic leader will support establishing an authentic leadership process throughout an entire organization. 

One might have a unique perspective towards what genuine leadership is or what authentic leaders ought to be or the behaviors they’re supposed to possess. But, in essence, authentic leadership is exemplified by leaders who are capable of influencing and inspiring their followers with their sincerity and moral perspective that are facilitated by increased self-awareness, fairness in information processing, and relational transparency.

4 Elements in Building Authentic Leadership

1. Self-Awareness

Authentic leadership starts from within. By taking a good, hard look at yourself, can help you identify your existing strengths and limitations as an individual and as a leader. 

Knowing where your leadership powers lay and your current limitations are can helps you assess what needs working on to help you achieve your aspirations. While assessing your weaknesses helps ground you and while you may accel at some things, you must be aware of where your weaknesses are. 

Sometimes, as leaders, it’s hard to admit that we don’t know something or have the answers for everything or have, even that we may not have tried certain things. But by accepting and admitting these restrictions, we are setting the example for our employees to do the same, and that is where honest conversations, the team’s strengths, and solutions arise from. 

Self-reflection also allows you to dig deeper and realize your motivations. Of all the distractions that you encounter on a daily basis, knowing your motives maintains your focus. With proper motivation, you can overcome the hurdles one at a time, as you approach the finish line.

2. Fairness Processing

You may have witnessed mistaken calls by referees when watching rugby. How do these make you feel at that time? How do you react? 

Building authentic leadership requires fairness in processing all information. Being fair in the treatment of processing information – those that can boost your confidence as a leader and those that can challenge your beliefs and judgments will give you a better, more balanced picture. 

Practicing active listening among your employees with fairness increases your awareness of a situation that can lead you to make better judgment calls. Aside from that, it can also foster open communication across your team as it encourages them to freely share their opinions and experiences without the fear of being judged. Balanced information processing also eliminates potential workplace conflicts and helps establish team collaboration.

3. Relational Transparency

Being truly connected with a person or an organization requires openness, honesty, and trust. An everyday leader may be afraid or uncomfortable in showing a “soft side” among the employees, but a genuine leader chooses to share their motives and feelings with others. 

By dealing with your thoughts and emotions honestly, you can have higher self-awareness that will allow you to grow as a leader and as an individual. Honesty also involves offering your employees constructive feedback to improve on their own performance or personal feedback. 

Being open to your employees urges them to do the same. This openness breeds trust in the process, allowing both leaders and followers to have a stronger bond and building honesty in their relationship, leading to authentic leadership.

4. Moral Perspective

An authentic leader who has an ethical and moral core set of values can exude a moral perspective. Being moral is an ultimate challenge in this changing world, as we are faced with diverse challenges and opportunities. However, going back to your roots, your core values, and the company’s mission will increasingly lead you to make guided and ethical decisions.

In doing this, one’s personal goals are set aside amidst an array of countless gains. Genuine leaders with an internalized moral perception can balance and control their behavior based on their moral values.

Leaders who have a moral perspective consider the impacts of their decision on all matters that will be affected, not just the company and its people but also its clients and the common good.

With authentic leadership, your team’s morale is boosted as employees feel free in speaking up, knowing their voices will be heard. Working together productively and openly collaborating, breeds a positive work culture that employees can thrive in. 

Authentic leaders who are self-aware, fair, transparent, and moral are necessary for today’s fast-paced, ever-changing workplace. As Douglas MacArthur, a military commander had put it, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

References:

Crawford, J. A., Dawkins, S., Martin, A., & Lewis, G. (2020). Putting the leader back into authentic leadership: Reconceptualising and rethinking leaders. Australian Journal of Management, 45(1), 114–133. DOI: 10.1177/0312896219836460

Goodreads. (n.d.). Douglas MacArthur Quotes. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/359193-a-true-leader-has-the-confidence-to-stand-alone-the

Indeed. (2021, July 16). What Is Authentic Leadership? (Definition and Characteristics). Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/authentic-leadership

Towler, Annette. (2019, February 17). The power of authentic leadership: How legitimacy, ethics, and positive psychology drive organizational performance. CQ Net. Retrieved from https://www.ckju.net/en/dossier/power-authentic-leadership-how-legitimacy-ethics-and-positive-psychology-drive-organizational-performance

Walumbwa, F., Avolio, B., Gardner, W., Wernsing, T. & Peterson, S. (2008). Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure†. Journal of Management. 34. 89-126. DOI: 10.1177/0149206307308913

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